James the brother of the Lord quoted Amos 9:11 at the Council of Jerusalem (Ac 15:16). His purpose
was to support the work of Paul and Barnabas with the authority of the prophetic Word. They had been
preaching among the Gentiles the good news of pure grace through the blood of Christ. In a unique way the
quotation of the prophet’s words themselves played an influential part in the fulfillment of the prophecy.
Verses 13-15 describe the blessings of the Messianic Age under the figure of agricultural abundance
accompanying the permanent return to their homeland by God’s exiled people. The combination of 13-15 with
the previous prediction of the Messiah’s coming from David’s house provides a clue for understanding and
preaching “this-worldly” prophetic descriptions of the Messianic Age.
Advent and Christmas Eve services usually remind us that Jesus fulfills the Old Testament prophecies.
The prophets bear inspired witness that Jesus is the promised Christ. But this truth has a flip side we often fail to
consider and proclaim. It is Jesus the Christ who opens the prophetic Scriptures to our understanding. Unless we
listen to him speaking to us about the kingdom of God (Ac 1:3), much of the Old Testament would be a closed
book for us. So it was for the unbelieving Jews in Jesus’ time; so it remains for everyone, no matter how
learned, who will not let the New Testament illuminate the Old. Jesus and his apostles give us the key that
unlocks the prophetic Scriptures of the Old Testament. We need to make good use of this key. Then perhaps we
will also feel freer to preach the gospel to New Testament believers on the basis of prophetic texts like this one.
Under Jeroboam II (793-753 B.C.) Israel, the Northern Kingdom, enjoyed military success (2 Ki 14:25),
high prosperity (e.g., Am 3:15) and luxurious living (e.g., 6:4-7). But the people no longer recognized their
covenant with the LORD. They oppressed the poor among them (e.g., 2:6; 5:11; 8:4-6), perverted justice (e.g.,
5:7,12,15), and made religious ceremony a hypocritical cover-up for idolatry and godless living (e.g., 5:21-26).
Therefore the Holy One would punish his covenant people (e.g., 3:2; 6:14).
The visions of judgment the Lord showed Amos in chapters 7 through 9 have come to a climax with the
fifth and last vision in 9:1-4. The Lord himself appears at (or even on) the altar to call for the destruction of the
shrine at Bethel and the death of the unfaithful Israelites. “Not one will get away, none will escape,” no matter
where he may try to hide from the almighty Creator. God will fix his eyes on them for evil and not for good
(9:1-4). His own people have become like a heathen nation in his sight, no different from their historic enemies
the Philistines or the Arameans. His saving acts, such as the exodus from Egypt, give an impenitent Israel no
special claim on his favor (9:7). “I will destroy the sinful kingdom from the face of the earth,” God thunders
(9:8). It was no empty threat. A generation later the kingdom of Israel was no more.
For a moment, a ray of gospel promise shines through the dark cloud of judgment on Israel’s horizon:
“Yet I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob” (9:8). Like a farmer sifting grain in a sieve, God will disperse
his people among the nations to separate the precious remnant from the waste (9:9). Then the thunder rolls
again: all the secure sinners among the Israelites will die by the sword (9:10). Finally the unconditional gospel
promise in 9:11-15 brings the book of Amos to a close—a brilliant sunset in the last moments of a stormy day.
Many critical commentators cannot deal with such a radical turnaround from judgment to grace. Julius
Wellhausen found here “roses and lavender instead of blood and iron” (cited by H. W. Wolff, 352) and would
not accept Amos as the author of these verses. More recent scholars like Mays also call this passage a later
addition: “After the Exile, when the prophetic message of judgment had been fulfilled, the oracles of salvation
in 9:11-15 were added to let the broken community hear the full counsel of God” (Mays 14; 165. But contra, cf.
Paul 288f.). Nothing in the book itself separates these final verses from the other words of Amos. God’s law has
done his “strange work…his alien task” (Isa 28:21) of condemning sinners. In the last five verses of the book the
Lord of faithful grace takes up “his own work” of comforting the condemned and raising the spiritually dead
with his promise of salvation (cf. Apology XII, 51).